Catholic Records, Stories

Bishop Guigues on John Lahey’s Donation

As a followup to my post on John Lahey the Elder, here is Bishop Guigue’s account of John Lahey’s donation of two acres to the mission of March (later the parish of St. Isidore, Kanata). The following (which I discovered through google books) is taken from Alexis de Barbezieux, Histoire de la province ecclésiastique d’Ottawa et de la colonisation de la vallée de l’Ottawa (Ottawa, 1897), which cites Guigue’s notes on his visit to March township in September 1848:

Alexis de Barbezieux, Histoire de la province ecclésiastique d'Ottawa et de la colonisation de la vallée de l'Ottawa (Ottawa, 1897)

In very rough translation, Bishop Guigues quotes John Lahey as follows:

In the year 1848, the 24th of the month of September, I, John Lehay [Lahey], landowner in the township of March, desirous, according to my abilities, to provide for the needs of the Catholic religion, give, purely and simply, to Monsignor Eugène Guigues, first bishop of Bytown, two acres of land for the maintenance of the church and of the Catholic priest who will be named by His Excellency and his successors, to provide for this mission or parish of March. These two acres of land are situated on lot no. 14 and touch, on one side, the main road which leads to Bytown, the other three sides bounded by the land of the donor.

At this point (i.e., in September 1848), there was a small wooden chapel on John Lahey’s land (lot 14, concession 3, March township), which chapel was enlarged in the early 1850s. In the mid-1880s, the parish (soon to be named the parish of St. Isidore) built a stone church on the same site. This stone building, designed by the priest-architect Georges Bouillon and built in part by John Lahey’s nephew John (son of James Lahey and Anne Armstrong, and husband of Margaret Jane Killeen), was demolished in August 2010 to make way for the construction of a new, and much larger, building to meet the needs of a vastly expanded parish and its parishioners.

(I have a bias toward smart, sensitive reclamations and reconfigurations of old buildings, in favour of outright demolition followed by new construction. ‘Reduce, reuse, and recycle,’ as the slogan goes; and also, what’s wrong with a sense of history, which contributes to a multi-layered sense of place (past, present, and future, with all of the continuity that this implies) in our built environments? I have not yet seen the new church in person, but I hope to visit it this weekend when I go up to Ottawa. And while I’ll probably resist the temptation to stand outside the new building with an “Occupy South March!” placard [it’s too late for that, in any case: the historic preservationists lost this round, despite their best efforts, and more’s the pity), I have to say that I am deeply sceptical of the claim that “this is no average church” [.PDF file]. As I’ve mentioned before, the internet “virtual tour” of the new St. Isidore (scroll down to Take a Virtual Tour of Our New Church!) puts me in mind more of a Holiday Inn Convention Centre than of a Roman Catholic church. Please may it not look like an American Sunbelt-style megachurch, devoted to the propagation of a gospel of “prosperity,” is what I now hope, and this is now my heartfelt plea.)

One thought on “Bishop Guigues on John Lahey’s Donation”

  1. Michelle Sinasac (Lahey) says:

    Hi there,
    I am a descendant of William and Sarah(Kelly) Lahey. I live out here in the boonies of Ottawa near Constance Bay. I grew up in Ottawa. My father (Edward) used to take us out to St. Isadore’s on Sunday drives and show us where he was born. He and my mother (Audrey Dancey) now rest in the cemetary there. I too am not very appreciative of “new” Church buildings. But because of my connections to the church and memories of it, I wanted to see what they had done to it. I had also seen the virtual tour (what a horror). But my family and I went to Mass there on January 15/12 and I was pleasantly surprised. For a “new” Church building it was surprisingly warm and inviting. They kept the original baptismal font and it is off to the side of the narthex, not a horrible swimming pool like at Holy Redeemer Parish(the first that hits you when you walk in there is the chlorine smell). It is warm wood and stone. They have the statues that used to be in the old church and the stained glass also. Anyhow I thought I would let you know. Someone had more taste than the architect who originally drew up the virtual design.
    Thanks for reading my rant.
    Michelle Sinasac (Lahey)
    Thank you also for the work you have done on the site. And if you have a contact for Dalton Lahey would you mind sending it along to me the copy of his book that we used to have in the family has gone missing and I want to get another one for my children to read.
    In Dalton’s book my name appears as Shelley, you know how people diminutize names and change them completely sometimes.

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